With their starters hitting the deck like a bunch of landlubbers aboard a schooner in a hurricane, the Cincinnati Reds have suddenly found a flair for the dramatic and a penchant for exciting comebacks. After storming back to beat the Pittsburgh Pirates on Friday night, the Reds pulled off another stunning turnaround on Saturday. This time, however, Bucs’ center fielder Andrew McCutchen got in the last two words and sent his team to a 6-5 victory.
The Reds’ rotation, which has been the bedrock of the team’s success in the first half, has seemingly hit a rough patch at home over the last week or so. Cincinnati has given up at least five runs in four of their last five games, and Reds’ starters have not made it out of the sixth inning in any of those. Mike Leake was the latest victim of that fate on Saturday, as he surrendered four runs in four innings and probably only lasted through the sixth because the bullpen has already taken on a heavy workload of late.
Meanwhile, Pirates’ starter Justin Wilson held the Reds scoreless on three hits through five before Zack Cozart led of the sixth with a walk. Before the inning was over, the Reds would plate five runs on a string of hits, walks, and steals. Despite some small-ball tactics, the big bomb was a three-run home by Todd Frazier that gave the Reds a 5-4 lead. Perhaps that’s a good omen for : @FlavaFraz21 as he heads into tomorrow’s Home Run Derby?
Manager Bryan Price ran string of four relievers to the mound in the seventh and eighth before handing the ball off to Jonathan Broxton in the ninth. McCutchen made quick work of Broxton’s rare save opportunity by clocking a leadoff home run, and the Reds came up empty in the bottom of the ninth.
J.J. Hoover came in to shut down the Bucs in extra innings until McCutchen came up with two outs in the eleventh and broke the tie with another solo shot. The Reds’ offense couldn’t get anything going in extras, and the net effect was a 6-5 loss.
In what could have been a preview of the second-half battles ahead, the Reds got a first-hand lesson in how to beat the Pirates when the game is close in late innings: don’t pitch to Andrew McCutchen. It would also help, of course, if the Reds’ offense could find some consistency, and it’s vital that the rotation returns to its status as one of the best in the game if Cincy hopes to make the playoffs.